The Nissan S30 was first launched by Nissan Motors in 1974. In Japanese marker, it was marketed as Nissan Fairlady Z, while in many export markets it was sold as the Datsun 240Z, Datsun 260Z and Datsun 280Z. The Nissan S30 was in fact the first generation model of Z GT 2-seat coupe. The 2+2 hatchbacks were added to the lineup later. The head of Nissan’s Sports Car Styling Studio, Mr. Yoshihiko Matsuo and his team designed the Nissan S30. It was produced as both left and right hand drive, where the left hand drive model was designated as HL30 and right hand drive model as HS30.
All the versions of Nissan S30 featured a 4-wheel independent suspension comprised of MacPherson struts at front and Chapman struts at rear end. Front disc brakes and rear drums were available as standard.
Yutaka Katayama, president of Nissan Motors USA operations (popular as Mr. K) announced the launch of 240Z in the US market in 1970. The 240Z produced from 1970 to mid-1971 was commonly known as Series I. The earlier models featured a chrome ‘240Z’ badge on the sail pillar as well as two horizontal vents in the rear hatch just under the glass molding. The Series II was introduced in mid-1971 with a redesigned sail pillar emblem. The new emblem featured just a ’Z’ letter positioned in a circular vented emblem. Also, the vents were dropped from the rear hatch panel in Series II S30. The 240Z went through several changes all through its production. For instance, the 1972 models received interior modifications, while the emission control devices along with new style emissions reducing carburetors and repositioning of the bumper over-riders were seen in 1973 model year.
In October 1969, the 240Z was introduced as 1970 model year, powered by a L24 2.4-L engine mated to a 4-speed manual transmission. A 3-speed automatic transmission was also made available as option after the 1971 model.
The car was ranked at number two on the list of Top Sports Cars of the 1970s by Sports Car International in 2004. Despite the popularity it received in the US markets, the car was disappeared from the roads in span of two decades. Perhaps, the reason behind this was the insuperable rust problems that most of the Japanese cars had at that time.
Although, the 260Z was sold in United States for only one year, i.e. 1974, it remained in selling market until 1978 in many other markets. It was powered by a relatively larger engine than 240Z with a longer stroke of 2.6-L. In spite of increased engine displacement, the strict emissions regulations in the United States resulted in reduced ignition timing and compression ratio, ending up in 140 hp of output. However, the engine power was increased in other markets to 165 bhp (123 kW); 167 kW). Where 4-speed manual was offered as standard, 3-speed automatic was optional.
In 1974, the S30 was introduced with an additional 11.9 inch (302 mm) wheelbase and offered for the first time in 2+2 seating option to accommodate four passengers easily. It featured large opening quarter panel windows and a different roofline than 2-seat coupe.
The 260Z couldn’t be able to attract huge number of buyers perhaps because of its reduced performance as compared to the previous 240Z. The later 280Z was also considered better than 260Z version of Nissan S30.
In 1975, Nissan Motors launched the Datsun 280Z version of S30 with a view to produce a car that seem sporting despite of strict US emissions and safety requirements. It was remained in production from 1975 to 1978 and throughout its production period it was accompanied by the 2-seat coupe and 2+2 hatchback versions.
It was powered by a larger 2.8-L L28 engine equipped with a dependable Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection system. In 1979, Nissan introduced its S130 Nissan Fairlady 280ZX/Datsun 280ZX after which the S30 series Z car was discontinued.
In the last half of 1969, Nissan Motors revealed the Fairlady Z as 1970 model year. It was powered by L20 2.0-L straight-6 SOHC engine, the engine it shared with Datsun 510 generating 150 hp (112 kW) mated to 5-speed manual transmission.
In October 1971, Nissan introduced the Japan-only HS230-H Nissan Fairlady ZG in Japan. It was launched to homologate the 240Z for Group 4 racing. The Fairlady ZG was offered in three different colors including: Grande Prix Red, Grande Prix White and Grande Prix Maroon. The Fairlady ZG was designed solely for Japanese market and never went into export. However, to make entitled for competition in US, a special nose kit called the ‘G-nose’ was offered as a dealer’s option. This nose when added to 240Z referred to as 240ZG in other countries.
The top of the line Fairlady was equipped with S20 engine taken from the Skyline GT-R and capable of generating 160 hp (119 kW). The Z432 (PS30) in the name stands for 4-valves per cylinder, 3 carburetors and 2 cams. Total of 420 units of Fairlady Z432 were produced and some of them were also used by Japanese Police.
It was powered by twin cam 2.0-L inline 6-cylinder S20 engine taken from the KPGC 10Skyline GT-R. The Z432R was offered in orange color with black steel wheels and a low luster black hood. The Z432R featured lighter front grille, doors, and bonnet.
Except for Japan where the 300ZX (Z32) was sold as Fairlady Z until 2000, Z series was not offered in countries other than Japan from 1996 to 2002. Nissan initiated a program in 1994 with a view to revive the Z car line. According to program, the company purchased the original 240Zs and restored them to factory specifications and again sold them to dealerships at $24,000. This was an attempt from Nissan to make the Z name survived in the market.